June 2, 2013

When to step in

One of the most understandable yet still bewildering effects of a falling crime rate is how invincible people come to see themselves, especially women. There were no glib girl-power martial arts or self-defense classes in the '80s because women had learned enough through personal or indirect experience about what they would actually be up against if the shit hit the fan.

So, why bother trying to become G.I. Jane when you could just hang out with a guy, or a group of guys, who would provide a way stronger deterrent to potential harassers? A two-bit punk is going to go after the isolated woman, not the one with several males around her.

Or how often you see 19 year-old girls jogging alone at night on city streets -- with earbuds jammed in their head to even further weaken their situational awareness. But, if there aren't as many bad guys roaming the streets as there used to be, they never get that reality check and learn to go out in social groups, like human beings were meant to.

Last night at a crowded train stop, some wino bum came up to a woman and started mouthing off -- I couldn't hear what, probably his standard crude attempts at pick-up lines. It wasn't clear if he was insulting her, too. But still being very confrontational, loud, and pushy. She looked like in her 20s, very tall, maybe 6'2 or 6'3, and with a statuesque build -- so, not some petite little thing that he could have easily intimidated. She was unaccompanied. He was in his 40s, fat, maybe 5'10, and drunken / surly.

She must have felt incredibly uncomfortable, and wishing someone would put a stop to it, though again because of her size she seemed to hold it together while looking nervous. It's always a tough call to make on the spot, but I figured she was in no real danger, and that I'd only move in if he started touching her or darting his arms and hands in her personal space.

As long as he was just up close but staying put, I figured it would be good for her long-term character to get harassed by some disgusting wino with no friends there (male or female) to back her up -- then she'd learn a valuable lesson for the future about how vulnerable you make yourself by choosing social isolation. Unwanted attention is just part of the price you pay by going out in public, and you can easily diminish it by going out in a group. You're supposed to get a feel for that logic during adolescence, but the satellite children of helicopter parents never quite got it.

Anyway, so some white knight dude steps in pretty early -- after only 20-30 seconds, and again when the wino hadn't touched her or moved his hands in her personal space. He was in his early-mid 30s, also about 5'10 and fat, and dressed like a well-meaning, meek schlub. With "Date Rape" by Sublime running through his mind, he goes up to the wino and tells him that he's bothering her, and bothering everyone else around.

So then the wino gets all in the guy's face, cussing at him to shut the fuck up, I'll kick your ass, etc. He even shoved the guy, with no response. The intervener just says that he doesn't want a fight, OK I'm walking away, etc., instead of sticking up for himself. Fuck the girl at that point -- it was a matter of personal disrespect. I halfway felt like moving in at that point, because he shoved the guy a second time, but it looked to be a mere shoving match to establish the pecking order, not an imminent fistfight.

A couple minutes later a cop drove by and several bystanders waved and pointed at the wino, who sensed some heat about to come down and made up some excuse about wanting to leave all of a sudden. The cop sat him down and probably didn't even haul him in or rough him up a little -- I couldn't stick around to see because my train showed up just then. But he'll probably be at it again next weekend.

So what did the white knight get for all his troubles? Verbal and physical harassment by drunken parasitic scum, no applause from the other bystanders, and in particular no word or gesture of gratitude from the woman for drawing fire away from her and onto himself. She was just relieved that once the schlub stepped in, the wino had locked onto another target and she could coast through the rest of the night in mere discomfort, rather than outright fear that he might escalate to groping her.

I don't think most people appreciate how thankless the Millennial generation is, how reluctant they are to ask for help when it's clearly needed, and how insistent they are on not accepting it when offered unsolicited. I don't even bother anymore. I only extend a helping hand to Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers, and even the odd Silent Gen member who's venturing out in public. Millennials just want some deus ex machina to swoop in and make everything go away, and breathe a sigh of relief that their stress level can go back down now. It's total self-absorption from beginning to end. They show so little appreciation for their fellow man, and are devoid of gratitude.

You have to know when to step in to fight someone else's fight. You don't want to jump in too quick if it's two guys, since the one you're stepping in for won't get a chance to redeem himself. Just shoving -- let them sort it out themselves. And if it's for a woman, you don't want to encourage her anti-social parasitic tendencies. If she expects an army of schlubby white knights to swoop in if called upon, yet refuses to go out in groups with males, then she's just trying to get all of the benefits of male protection without giving anything in return, like providing some fun female company, making her male companions look normal and even desirable because they've got girls in their group, and so on. You gotta give in order to get. Short of the harasser laying hands on her, poking / stabbing / waving his arms or hands in her personal space, or shouting right in her face, let her learn her lesson.

Somehow you're more likely to step in when it's a carnival atmosphere, like at a dance club. I've stepped in a lot more to displace pushy loser males from girls, whether I was with them or not, when they were making them uncomfortable. It's like the party atmosphere is so fragile that even small ruptures in the skin of trust threaten to dissolve the entire social tissue. (Or something.) And girls are a lot more grateful in those situations -- even the Millennials. I don't mind helping them out then. And I think that's the one place where they're more aware of the reality of traveling in groups rather than showing up alone.

Those places also have more security guards roaming around, unlike train stops, because the patrons are letting their guard down so much by submerging themselves into the action of the crowd.

But, with people cocooning so much over the past 20 years, they spend a lot less time in nightclubs than they used to, and a lot more time in generic open public spaces like a train stop, supermarket parking lot, jogging around the block, etc. Sure, they occasionally get harassed by bums or losers while waiting for the train or on the way out to their car in the parking lot, but it's not very often, not very intense, and not that alarming since they didn't really let their guard down in the first place. They're choosing situations where they won't learn very much from experience.

So long as the crime rate keeps falling, they won't care -- they'll act even more recklessly, in fact. Once that naivete becomes widespread enough, the predators or parasites will pick up on it and start driving the crime rate up again. In its own sick way, that's what restores people's awareness of what human nature is like, and how human behavior ought to be -- social and supportive, and humble, not glib and isolated, with a phony hubris of invincibility.


  1. Unless she was explicitly going out for a social gathering, I don't really see how your advice that she travel in a group of males applies. You can't expect male friends to escort her to work everyday or accompany her to Grandma's house, you know?

    I think you're absolutely right that women overstimate their physical prowess from those stupid martial arts classes. But as a woman, I do have an equalizer--if I'm worried about my physical safety, I bring my concealed handgun. If I tell a drunken man to leave me alone and he doesn't, and I feel threatened by his advances, just flashing the gun would usually be enough to scare the shit out of him and get him to back off. I'm not saying a gun gives me carte blanche to take a stroll in the ghetto, but I think with that added line of protection, there is nothing wrong with walking alone in the park, around your neighborhood, or traveling on public transportation.

    It sounds like you resent the White Knight mentality. Personally, I want to live in a society that upholds that ideal, and I think it's great when a man finds it within himself to stand up for other people (particularly women and children). I can understand why you wouldn't want a society where women try to have it both ways, however.

  2. "how reluctant they are to ask for help when it's clearly needed"

    i've had trouble not doing this, especially in my studies. yet it seems most people don't like being asked for help, unless someone is about to assault you.


  3. you say that its better to go out in public in groups. do you think its acceptable to join a, say, community group by yourself? would that be too off-putting to the other group members?


  4. and yeah, I've seen a situation like that before. But in that case, two guys were just babbling at a group of girls, who were apparently too uncomfortable to ignore the guys, and were keeping up their end of the conversation(barely). they had to wait for the train, I guess. I just followed them into the train and sat behind, and when the guys left, one of the girls immediately called him a creep.

    Millenial girls, for all their bluster, seem bad at handling unwanted attention. As you've pointed out, they are quick to call the cops.

    I wasn't alive in the 80s, but in 80s movies and Tv it seems common for some girl or woman to tell some guy "get lost!" or "creep!". I've never seen younger girls do that.


  5. correction: i was alive in the 80s, but I was a little kid.

    anyway, one last thought: I'd expect that the need for male protection also makes society more promiscuous. some guy protecting a woman is more likely to create emotional bonds.


  6. Interesting post. Do you think there's a chance of the crime rate rising, leading to less cocooning, but people realizing this quickly and go back to cocooning before the typical 30-year cycle ends? Sorry if my wording is piss-poor. Personally, I feel so socially isolated that I have a hard time picturing myself stepping in for one of these young women. Although I haven't been in that situation. So who knows how I might respond if it was really going down?

    I do have an interesting anecdote though. A local TV station set up a scene where a woman was being berated by a man on a city sidewalk. Out of about ten passers-by, my brother's friend was the only one to stop and offer help to the woman. So he was made out to be a hero on local TV, lol. This was about a dozen years ago now.

  7. OT: the New York Times published an article on how restrictive California beaches have become


  8. Interesting post. Do you think there's a chance of the crime rate rising, leading to less cocooning, but people realizing this quickly and go back to cocooning before the typical 30-year cycle ends?

    i wonder if that happened between 2003 and 2007, people became more outgoing and crime rose slightly. there was a similar spike in crime in the mid 40s; not sure if people were more outgoing then as well but it fits with the 60 year cycle.

  9. "Do you think there's a chance of the crime rate rising, leading to less cocooning, but people realizing this quickly and go back to cocooning before the typical 30-year cycle ends?"

    That's an interesting question, and I was sort of wondering the same thing. In the early 2000s, the culture became more outgoing, possibly because of 9/11. Yet around 2005-2006, it became cocooning again. Its like people got freaked out.


  10. Thanks for touching on my comment, guys. I know our gracious host has touched on that period from roughly 2003-2006 as being a bright spot in the wilderness. I'm still trying to figure out my feelings about that. Those are the years I was in college. I'm not sure if those years were less cocooning for me or not. Perhaps they were better than the years after. But if they weren't much better for me, that could just be due to my own personal struggles, of which there are many. Looking back on it, maybe my college years weren't so bad, although I didn't realize it at the time.

  11. it was a more positive time in my life. it took some time for the outgoingness to get rolling, though. based on my own experience, I think the trend started more in 2001-2002.

    I sure hope things are once again loosening up.


  12. The women in my office are much more bothered by the presence of minorities/lower class types in the building and are particularly upset about bums that have accosted them. I've only been bothered by one once when waiting for an L train (though odd types have simply made conversation other times), I just said I wasn't giving him anything and ignored him while continuing to listen to Pandora (I had forgotten bring my headphones) which made him angry but resulted in nothing.

    I agree with Skadi that you can't expect women to refrain from going out alone. This isn't Saudi Arabia where they're required to have a family member to escort them anywhere outside the house. And since plenty of times there's nobody else there (as in the incident I described above) I don't think they're assuming they can rely on a white knight.

    I'm licensed to own a gun in Chicago, but I'm not even allowed to bring one out to a porch or stairwell and ranges for civilians are illegal in the city (fine for police though), so for the indefinite future they're still with my folks in the suburbs. I don't know if variance in legal regimes has much effect though, I think urbanization tends to swamp the small number of gun owners.

  13. I know it's not the point of the post, but holy shit! 6'2"??? That's like four standard deviations out.

    I sometimes get the impression that female height is skewed to the right, although it could just be the people I come into contact with. The place I work, for example, has a 6'1" woman, two 6'0" woman, and two that are 5'10" out of ~90 total female employees.

  14. Extremely 70's and 80's photos here. Amazing how lean everyone looks, how colorful everything is... http://internetkhole.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-06-09T19:18:00-07:00&zx=ba4d89b8c80ab1aa



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